THE proclamation of August 23 as the date for the harmonised election paves the way for what is panning out to be the most tension-laden polls in Zimbabwe in recent years.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the incumbent, announced the dates for the
presidential, parliamentary and council elections, ending weeks of speculation.
The announcement likely will raise the mercury, with the atmosphere already charged amid recurrent inter and intra-party fights, the receding democratic space and an ill-prepared electoral body whose impartiality is questionable.
The long-running spat with the United States (US) has widened in recent
days. Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), in power since independence 1980, this time will face the Citizens
Coalition for Change (CCC), only formed in 2022, as its biggest threat
to its decade-old stranglehold on power.
August will mark the 60th anniversary of ZANU-PF, which also raises the
stakes for the party to retain power, which it has previously been accused of keeping hold of through violence and vote rigging.
Opponents are branded as puppets of the US and the Western nations,
including former colonial master, the United Kingdom (UK), hence upon
confirmation of the dates, the ruling party-aligned ZANU-PF Patriots
made a declaration along those lines.
“It’s time to defeat puppet (Nelson) Chamisa, puppet organisation CCC
and puppeteer USA (United States of America). August 23 is the day to do
it,” it asserted.
The so-called ‘puppet’ mentioned is Nelson Chamisa, leader of the CCC,
who in the last poll in 2018 was Mnangagwa’s main challenger. Chamisa
was then with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
He has described August 23 as a “big day.”
“It is crucial to exert every effort towards achieving a resounding
victory,” Chamisa stated.
“A robust win and a staunch defence of that triumph will set the stage
for the emergence of a New Great Zimbabwe that caters to everyone’s
needs,” Chamisa said.
Relations with so-called puppeteers, the US, and Zimbabwe were fractured
further this week after the government summoned America’s top diplomat
following some tweets by the embassy, urging Zimbabweans to “register to
vote and make sure your voice is heard.”
“Zimbabwe’s constitution grants citizens the rights to choose their representatives in legitimate, credible and peaceful elections,” said
the US Chargé d’Affaires to Zimbabwe, Elanie French.
The government reacted with anger.
Longtime government publicist, George Charamba, accused the advert by
the US mission of “diplomatic indiscretion” and meddling in Zimbabwe’s
electoral politics, contrary to the Vienna Convention.
“Matters could come to a head, including barring US election observers,”
Charamba, who is the Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and the
The US mission could have further complicated matters when the embassy’s
Chargé d’affaires, Elaine French, recently met same-sex activists to
discuss how to best to protect people who have identified themselves as
lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, queer and
questioning (LGBTIQ+) rights in Zimbabwe knowing well these are banned
in the Southern African country.
Rofina Chikava, Zimbabwe’s Acting Secretary for Foreign Affairs and
International Trade, summoned French, where the former expressed the
Sources close to the meeting disclosed the US envoy had pledged to steer
clear of Zimbabwe’s affairs. However, embassy spokesperson, Meg Riggs, was quoted stating, “We stand by our recent media posts calling for peace during the election season.”
Elections in Zimbabwe held since the early 2000s have been the source of
conflict with America and other influential nations in the West, Britain
included. They accuse Zimbabwe of electoral fraud. Harare’s response is
that these critics have a regime change agenda and support the
Zimbabwe has battled under subsequent sanctions that Western nations
have declined to lift despite a call by the United Nations (UN). On Wednesday, Parliament passed the controversial Patriot bill.
Critics argue it seeks to destroy freedoms of association and assembly. The proposed law intends to punish “unpatriotic” Zimbabweans, particularly those advocating for sanctions. Opposition members, government critics and journalists are likely to be targeted.
“Free speech is now dead and any Zimbabwean holding a meeting with a
foreign government official will be jailed,” explained government
critic, Hopewell Chin’ono.
After its passage the bill is to proceed to the Senate, then to the president for his assent. Outspoken independent legislator for Norton, Themba Mliswa was this week ejected from Parliament as legislators debated the bill.
Mliswa, a former ZANU-PF member, was thrown out after raising the issue
of the atrocities that occurred in southern Zimbabwe and the Midlands in
the 1980s. Mnangagwa is accused as the mastermind.
Mliswa said the enactment of the law on patriotism was akin to the
brutality of the massacres that left an estimated 20 000 civilians dead
under the Robert Mugabe (now late) administration.
“It’s the very same attitude and approach that has us pushing for global
re-engagement whilst committing the same political and social errors and
injustices that have found us locked away from vital connections as a
pariah state,” he argued.
The under-fire Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) struggled to conduct
the voting roll inspection notice and extended the process to June 1
after some “logistical and other unforeseen circumstances” delayed the
opening of some inspection centres.
The process for newly-registered voters started on May 27 and was meant
to end on Wednesday. Earlier, divisions rocked ZEC over the controversial delimitation exercise.
Seven (out of eight) commissioners disassociated themselves from the
exercise and report.
“Since then, there’s no evidence that the ZEC divisions have disappeared
or that they have been satisfactorily if at all addressed,” stated exiled former cabinet minister, Prof. Jonathan Moyo, formerly spokesperson for ZANU-PF.
Zimbabwe, where the struggling economy is another source of discord, has
a history of violent elections.
Scores of opposition supporters were killed when Mugabe and ZANU-PF suffered their first loss, in 2008. Morgan Tsvangirai (also deceased) defeated Mugabe but pulled out of a runoff because of violence. The army shot dead six people in the aftermath of Mnangagwa’s election, whose outcome Chamisa challenged in court with no success.
– CAJ News